Fast forward to 2004 in South Africa and tune into the sound emanating from thousands of garages in the privileged white suburbs from Durban through Jozi to Cape Town and hear the unbridled rage of a thousand teenie-boppers beating the drums, guitars and basses that daddy bought them for Christmas, just like Blink 182. Not too sure what they're so angry about, but screaming all the same, just like their spoilt, disaffected first world heroes on MTV. Hear the whine of a million faux-American accents and marvel at the local 'success' of derivative local punk bands like Tweak and The Finkelsteins, while I piss down their American-accent spewing throats!
Rather beat me over the head, throw me in the boot and drive me to Belville, amidst the rows of verkrampte suburban homes, low fences and golfball letter boxes. Belville, home of a million bad drivers and the Western Cape's first world, suburban, nuclear fantasy. In this neighbourhood, under the shadow of the local NG Kerk and the neat gardens, Fokofpolisiekar are the answer to South Africa's boon of punk rock mimicry. An Afrikaans rock band currently breaking onto 5fm's playlist as *Polisiekar, not so much because 5fm support original local music, but because Fokofpolisiekar play with such energy and drive that they cannot be suppressed, although 5fm don't really know how to make angry Afrikaans punk play alongside Britney and Jay-Z. Fokofpolisiekar don't give a shit anyway. They didn't ask to be played on radio, but their growing legion of fans certainly did.
With a Molotov cocktail of roaring guitar licks and highly flammable lyrical content, Fokofpolisiekar flip between wailing guitars, heavy bass and drum noise to easy melodies and rhythmic guitar riffs that infuse stylistic elements of ska into the music. The sound is pure punk, as purveyed by a plethora of bands, past and present, but it is the unrestricted appropriation of Afrikaans as the language of young, angry suburban whiteys that makes Fokofpolisiekar so easily accessible. To those who have languished through twelve years of Afrikaans in the nation's schools, the music is a stiff two-fingered salute to Mnr Groenewald the Afrikaans teacher who beat me with the fast end of a fishing rod in standard 4. Fok jou! In sy eie taal ook. Through Fokofpolisiekar I am busy re-appropriating the Afrikaans I have had drilled into my skull since I was a laaitie. Lead singer Francois Van Coke's lyrics infuse the international punk sound with a local relevance and creates hybrid anthems out of the Afrikaans suburban South African milieu. With song titles like 'Maak of Braak', 'Vernietig Jouself', 'Le en Kots' and 'Hemel op die Platteland', Fokofpolisiekar are not simply a South African pop punk flash in the pan, they actually have something important to say. They are fast creating a relevant new platform that takes its cues as much from MTV and Linkin Park as Johannes Kerkorrel and The Springbok Nude Girls. Afrikaans punk rock offers this new generation the potential for dealing with issues that their parents wouldn't touch with a cattle prod. Of course there's a fair amount of, 'seks, dwelms en rock 'n roll' mixed in.'Gee my alkohol, gee my 'n lewe
'Francois and myself are sound engineers,' explains Wynand the bass guitarist from behind his huge snor and 70s glam rock hair and thick Afrikaans accent. 'We see so many bands, and it's just copies, just people speaking American accents and it's such stupid, you know. And in this band we decided fuck it, let's just be exactly who we are, and that's how Fokofpolisiekar started off.'
'We chose to do it in Afrikaans because it was the most honest way we could get rid of a lot shit.' Says Hunter the rhythm guitarist. 'Punk music was perfect for that.'
'It's like breaking all that shit off, what we always wanted to be and pretend to be and just be exactly who we are.' States Jaco, the drummer between sips of whiskey and drags of cigarette. 'We're from Belville and we like this.'
'We didn't really think about it in the beginning,' Francois, the singer puts a cap on it. 'But it started to make sense later on. We've been joking for years about starting an Afrikaans punk band. We thought it would be really funny. And when we started to sing in Afrikaans we realised we could be really honest with ourselves.''Kan jy my skroewe vir my vasdraai?
'Kan jy jou idea van normaal by jou gat opdruk?
Kan jy apatie spel? Kan iemand dalk 'n god bel
en vir hom se ons het hom nie meer nodig nie'
But the music is not all driving guitars, angst, anger and crotch grabs. It flips frequently between hard rock and anthemic melodies, in the same way jazz flips back and forth between the improv and the hook.
'All of us when we were ten or eleven we were listening to techno...' offers Hunter as way of explanation.
'We've always dug heavy music and pop music. Sepultura and Phil Collins.' Says Francois.
'Or Belinda Carlisle.' Adds Hunter. I'm not sure if he was joking.
'I think that's one thing in our band that works. Just by accident we dig heavy music and when we write it, it turns out to be melodic.' Wynand caps it.
It's obvious that Fokofpolisiekar sing their plaintive Afrikaanse punk with a wink and a firm tongue in cheek, taking obvious cues from bands like Tenacious D and to a lesser extent The Darkness. This is evident in their merchandise, which there is plenty of. Caps, T-shirts, buttons and stickers featuring Jesus, arms outstretched, with bats ominously looming over his left shoulder, the five pointed star in their logo and the Fokofpolisiekar Jeugsangbundel (youth singing book), featuring all their lyrics in a hymn book, cribbed straight from the pews of the NG Kerk.
Such imagery has led to several cries of 'Satanism!' from the conservative Afrikaans community they cohabit.'En is dit rerig nodig om soos jy te wees?'
'Ag, I think since my first year.' Says Wynand.
'Since I was 14, man.' Says Hunter
'When I was 12 I gave my life to Lucifer!' Wynand repeats holding his two fingers aloft in the time honoured punk rock salute, laughing.
'Since we started playing live and the people were calling us Satanists.' Says John, the lead guitar, seriously.
'Ja, for about as long as the rumour's been going around.' Smiles Wynand.
'Check the rumour is valid. You've got the 5 pointed star in your logo...' I explain.
'No man that's just because we love rock and roll.' Says Francois.
'It's just a fuck around man...' says Wynand.
'You've got Jesus and the bats...' I continue.
'That's Matt...' says Jaco referring to their merchandising guru.
'It's just playing with the people's core, you know. Fuck it.' Explains Hunter. 'They label us Satanists but that's just their paradigm, we know it and we're fucking with it.'
'And it's absolutely what it is.' Says Wynand. 'Punk is all about reaction.'
Francois leans forward and says, 'let me tell you a quick story. There was a big, big, big charismatic Christian revival in Belville a few years ago.'
'It was fully catered for people like us. People who dig heavy music and alternative lifestyles. It was weird and all of us were involved with that to a degree.'
'We had this pastor and all these bands like Neshama – who are still playing now.' Tunes Wynand. 'There was a death metal Christian band, there was a band called Nail that turned into 7 th breed which was punk – so we had all these huge gigs, which were only Christian with no drinking...
'Like the straight edgers?' I ask referring to punks who don't drink or do drugs but dig on fascism.
'Straight edge, only Christian.' Explains John.
'So from that we all got involved hectically. And that's how we all met each other.' Says Wynand.
'It was in all the schools everyone was getting saved. All the alternative people...' says Hunter.
'Ja, all the alternative people at this church with this big pastor, with a shaven head and earrings...'
'Wow man!' I say thinking of such a weird scene.
'If you want to join you must just say...' says Wynand, and then laughs.
'All of this, our history, the reaction, is on that EP.' Explains Francois. 'I've even got a new surname.'
'How did you get a new surname?' I ask perplexed.
'He bought it on Ebay.' Says Matt the merchandiser.
'No man my father is a Dutch Reform minister and the whole congregation started to phone to our house when they saw us in the paper and shit. So my parents said I must not use our surname.'
'So what does he say about all this shit?'
'They hate it.' Admits Francois. 'But they're cool with me, as me. And they're cool people, they obviously just hate what I am doing.''Stuur my hemel toe, ek dink dis in die Platteland'
They all laugh. 'We're not really that angry.' Says Francois.
'When we wrote that EP, we never thought to ourselves jussis we are angry at the moment.' Explains Wynand. 'But now people have been saying it and when I open up the lyric book and read 'alkohol en ek is in die hel.' And I think Jesus Christ what the fuck where we thinking at the time? But that's just what happened.'
'That's what we felt.' Says Hunter.
'A lot of people are feeling it, otherwise there would be no one at your gigs.' I add.
'I'm sure that a lot of young people can relate to it.' Wynand adds wisely.
'Wynand broke his bass on my head, on our tour now.' Says Francois pointing to a fresh scab by his hairline.
'It sounds more hectic than what it was.' Wynand shrugs and thinks a moment.
'What I don't understand is that it feels to us that girls don't really like us. They don't really talk to us. Everyone is like how's the groupies, and we're like what groupies?
'Ja we normally just sit there and drink to ourselves. Girls think we're a bit heavy maybe?' offers Francois.
'But you guys have some fine looking fans, I've seen it for myself.' I throw in.
'We don't even realise it.' Says Francois.
'Ja, between all the joints, the drinking and the headbanging you can't see fuck all.' Admits Wynand.
But what makes Fokofpolisiekar more culturally relevant than say a Polish hip hop band, who only sing in Polish? Not much really, except that Fokofpolisiekar's cultural production is entirely created for us to enjoy, 100% drawn from our experience. It has no pretensions towards being played on MTV and probably never will be, it's not caught up in the kak of 'making it' and being everything everyone ever wanted. It simply is what it is. Afrikaans punk. Our information, onse woorde , and experience reflected back at us through the mirrorball of cultural production. It is steeped in our own relevance en fok die res . Someone from the UK, USA, Kenya, Nigeria and probably even Holland is not going to get it. But that's OK. Like true punk, choosing Fokofpolisiekar over the new Blink 182 is not only a satisfying moment of acknowledging the depth and importance of our own experience, it is a proud stiff finger to cultural globalism, manufactured pop and the most-laughable whores on South African radio and TV who purvey that shit at the expense of our own expression.
'That's part of the appeal,' says John, the quiet lead guitarist, 'like it's an untapped market, really: Bands that can't sell out. Band's that can't just go to America and make it big.'
'Me and Wynand were driving along in his old fucked up van... '
'...but we've been talking about starting an Afrikaans band for a long time, so everytime we smoke we talk kak about it.'
'All our bands were breaking up and we were talking about doing something else. Then we were driving in the van and a family station wagon pulled up in front of us and I said, "fokof familie motor" and we were stoned and all started laughing. We just digged the sound of it.
'Jus the sound of it. Fokof Familie Motor.'
'We thought we've got the name for our punk band, so we phoned Hunter and said "dude ons het dit, ons het dit, nou die band begin". And then a few weeks later said, like, "what's our band's naam nou weer?" Fokofpolisiekar, and it stuck.'
'There were times when we thought we should change the name but we thought fuckit lets just keep it that way.'
'There were two names we were toying with. One was Fokofpolisiekar and the other was Blasphemous Demon Whore.''But the other one would have been more acceptable because it doesn't have a swear word in it.'